Grimm's Fairy Tales

in the grimm's fairy tale hansel and gretel what is an example ofArchetypal literary criticism

hansel and gretel

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Hansel and Gretel Archetype Analysis

Hansel and Gretel is a story known by almost everyone. Even though this story is about two starving kids, deceitful parents, and a cannibalistic witch, it is a classic fairytale, loved and admired by people of all ages. Maybe it's the idea that these two kids came from absolutely nothing, only to get all their desires that delights, that entices people. Or maybe it's the fact that good triumphs evil. Either way, Hansel and Gretel continues to get told and passed down throughout generations.

The beginning of this story is rich with fairytale archetypes. Two children coming from poor backgrounds, so poor that even bread was becoming scarce. There is the 'wicked' stepmother, who manipulates the influential, yet caring, father. "Oh! you fool, then we must all four die of hunger, you may as well plane the planks for our coffins," she exclaimed to him. The father was distressed over misleading the children, but gave little fight. In most fairytales there is usually one controlling, 'evil' parent (or step-parent) and one rather submissive parent, this fairytale being no exception. This happens in fairytales because it makes the reader want to root for the hero. Not only do they have to overcome they main obstacle they have, they have to deal with one parent setting up more obstacles, or making their obstacle all that more difficult to reach. Readers can relate to this, probably not to their own parents, but to certain people in their life. The two parents come up with a plan to leave their children, only to have it fail, after the children overhear their plan. Hansel immediately shows the reader his skills, coming up with a plan to save his sister and himself. Their victory is short lasted, however, because both the children find themselves in the same situation, but this time, without a solution.

Hansel and Gretel become lost in a forest, which is an archetype for evil, lost and fear. Many other fairytales, such as Snow White, use a forest in the same manner as Hansel and Gretel. They stumble upon a candy house, and nibble on the house, unaware of any consequences. An old, ugly woman greets them, and lures them into her house. In some versions of this story, Hansel and Gretel are portrayed as greedy and ignorant. Was it not ultimately their fault that they ate what was not theirs and trusted a stranger? In the Brothers Grimm story, though, it is evident that the children should have no blame, and that they were compelled to trust this woman. The witch is a very obvious archetype. The witch deceives the children, saying things like;"Oh you dear children, who has brought you here? Do come in, stay with me. No harm shall happen to you". She follows every wicked witch's stereotype of evil, ugly, old, and bitter. The witch is often portrayed this way because it is much easier to hate and distrust these characters, though this often conflicts with real life. In real life, anyone can wrong you; old or young, ugly or beautiful. Since this is a very old fairytale, they wanted to portray characters a certain way. The hero or heroine was always beautiful, and had a good heart, and the evil person was always bitter, and corrupt. Most children books and movies are still like this. We have passed down this idea, and continue to teach it.

Gretel triumphs over the witch by pushing her into the stove her and her brother were going to be cooked in. They gathered stones, which they later found out were pearls and jewels. Symbolism was very present when Hansel and Gretel took the white duck as a way of transport over the water. Passing over water represents safe passage, and a duck swimming represents a lucky journey. The Brothers Grimm probably included this part because of its representation that Hansel and Gretel's journey is coming to an end, and they need not worry about anything more.

Perhaps stories like this continue to be passed down because of the warnings in them. The saying 'don't take candy from strangers' was practically derived from this story.